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Saturday, January 26, 2013

The one-on-one “convo” when it comes to touchy subjects

Have you ever tried to convince someone about something and find that he or she just wasn’t interested in hearing what you had to say? Even before you opened your mouth?

I’ve had this happen many a time with people on the internet (forums, fb, or comment areas), with fellow employees (and bosses), and, especially, with my parents.

When it comes to having one-on-one convos with people about touchy subjects, hackles tend to get raised and nasty, prickly quills come out. Touchy subjects include things like politics, philosophy, religion, and/or football teams if you live in the South, etc.  In these kinds of conversations, we need to tread carefully…unless we’re interested in becoming human pin-cushions.  

So how are we to go about communicating our opinions and beliefs without getting our feelings hurt (or hurting someone else’s)?

In this post, I’m going to share 3 things that have helped me get past barriers and avoid those dastardly porcupine quills.

**Gain a person’s trust and respect by listening**

Listening is often overlooked in American culture, but it’s crucial to gaining another person’s trust and respect. If you want to make headway in a conversation, try listening. Simple, right?

Well…sometimes listening to what another person has to say can be more difficult than that Jak and Daxter challenge you’ve already attempted 10 times without success. In other words, it can be nearly unbearable, or, worse, excruciating. This is especially true when you are 110% sure you are right and/or the other person is dead wrong.

Bear the pain >_<! Resist the urge to correct, qualify, or clarify, at least until the person is done saying his or her piece.

Listening is a wonderful diffuser that tends to encourage reciprocation. If we take the time to listen to a person’s opinion, beliefs, philosophical meanderings, etc., there is a good chance that we will gain the opportunity to do the same.

**Be courteous**

If the other person makes a bad or irrelevant point, one of the best things you can do is demonstrate graciousness by pointing this out gently and with a considerable amount of tact. One of the worst things you can do is yell curse words at the person and call them an idiot. I’ve seen, heard, and read both tactics.

Not surprisingly, the first tactic tends to promote consideration of the subject, encourage greater open-mindedness, and diffuse conflict. The second tends to erect a towering barrier to accepting your perspective (or any other perspective other than his or her own), foster chaos, and further conflict.

Honor the other person whether or not you feel he/she deserves it. If you conduct yourself in an honorable manner, you are WAY more likely to receive honor from both the one you are arguing with and the people who are listening in (if there are any people around).

I’ve had several people approach me on forums to apologize for another person’s insults/discourtesy. People notice how you treat others—and they care, too!  

**Be sensitive**

Remember what Thumper said in Bambi about unkind words? Something like, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Don’t insult the other person inside or outside the argument or discussion. (Inside the argument would be insulting them for a point he made—that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, etc. Outside the argument would be insulting him for being who he is—you’re an idiot, etc.) If you disagree, indicate your disagreement, but do it in such a way that you don’t insult the other person when you do it.

Try to consider the other person’s perspectives and feelings. Indicate you’re trying to do this by asking the person for more details, or rephrasing what the person has said and asking if it sounds right.

Understanding that no one is perfect goes a long way, too. I mean, I’m not great at being sensitive all the time, and honestly, I really need to work on my tactfulness in real-time (I can work wonders in the field of tact with writing, but I’m terrible with tact when it comes to talking, for example).

If we are sensitive to a person’s weak points it can help us understand where he/she is coming from and help us to approach the situation better.

These may seem like no-brainers to you, but like I said, I’ve seen, heard, and read conflicts in which people did not listen to one another, were incredibly discourteous, and were horribly insensitive.

Be courteous. Be sensitive. Listen. And practice those three lots and lots ;)

The results can be astounding!

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